Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Young Adult Lit

I'm sorry, Katniss.  I really am.  I underestimated you and your author.  You've gotten under my skin.

I didn't realize that your author was writing for teens,  I saw New York Times Bestseller on the back cover and I just assumed it was the real list.  Then I went to the interweb and saw that there were a jillion NYT Bestseller lists so I gave up and read the back cover more closely and saw what I'd missed the first time.

I still don't know why teen lit has to write down to its audience.  I don't know why good grammar and an extensive vocabulary are absent.  I don't understand .... and maybe I'm not supposed to understand.  I'm not a teen in the 21st century.  When I was a teen, the genre didn't exist.

I participated in an Adolescent Literature Book Club (it was much too serious to be referred to as a Teen Lit Book Club) for a while when we were in Marin and my kids were of that age.  Big Cuter was reading above grade level.... Jack Miles' biography of God in the eighth grade.... Guns, Germs and Steel on his own before it was assigned as pre-freshman year reading for Georgetown....  and finding the tomes on his own.  Little Cuter was always open to suggestions, though, so I joined the ladies who lunched after they read for a year or so.

I stopped attending when the happiest girl in the world asked me why I kept recommending such depressing books.

Suicide, cutting, rape, torment.... there were only a handful of novels which made me smile.  Our leader justified her choices by reminding us that books are a way out of a difficult time for many kids, that this is the reality for many kids, that many kids want to feel that others are worse off than they are, that many kids..... at that point, I'd stopped listening.

I was a pretty miserable teenager. I reveled in happy stories.  Had so much changed? I didn't think so.

The popularity of the Hunger Games trilogy makes me think that maybe I wasn't such an outlier, after all.  The characters triumph over evil - or die trying - and the message is one of trust and competence and power.  Sure, it could be deeper.  Sure, it could be more finely crafted.  But I'm desperate to finish the last hundred pages.  Not because I'm worried, but because I care about the people.

Those are fine themes for teens, don't you think?


  1. I'm with you about reading happy novels. I get so engrossed in novels and invest a lot of emotional energy, I have to read happy books. I know I'm selling myself short, but why read something that's going to make you feel awful?

    I did read Roxanna's book. I dreaded reading it, but was so glad I did. I sobbed and sobbed, but I also laughed. I need to open up to other types of books. It's really hard though.

    I've heard nothing but good things about Hunger Games. So I may read it. All of my friends are saying I have to read Fifty Shades of Grey. So that may be my next read.

    Hope you are having a good day.

    Megan xxx

  2. I saw Fifty Shades of Grey and two others with similar titles on the NYT List, Megan. Let me know..... and DO read Suzanne Collins. I think you'll smile by the end.

    Your description of Roxanna's book is spot on - I guffawed through my tears. It's as close to who she is as those of you who will never meet her can get.

  3. I read a lot of YA and I read a mix of happy and serious. Sometimes they are even happily serious. ;-)


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